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Lessons from a big, red dog

Norman Bridwell, author of Clifford the Big Red Dog, lived in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard until his death in 2014.

Since his death, his wife, Norma, has kept his memory alive with this front-door tribute to his two most famous characters, Emily Elizabeth and Clifford.

Lovely. Right?

I’m never going to die – obviously – but still, it made me wonder what tribute Elysha might theoretically leave to me at our front door:

An Egg McMuffin? My 7 iron? Seat #5 from section 336, row 24 in Gillette Stadium? A small shelf of the books I’ve published? A case of Diet Coke? A microphone on a stand? My laptop?

Probably better not to clutter the doorway. There’a already stuff in the entranceway that she needs to move out, and I can’t stand clutter of any kind.

But what a lovely tribute to a man who has brought so much joy to say many children.

A couple interesting facts about Norman Bridwell:

Bridwell attempted to get a job as a children’s book illustrator but was rejected by every publishing house where he applied. While at Harper & Row, an editor offhandedly suggested he turn one of his drawings into a story. The drawing was of a young girl and a horse-sized bloodhound, and the story became Clifford the Big Red Dog. 

That simple, off-handed comment spawned over 40 best-selling Clifford books, three animated television series, merchandise, a live musical, and a live-action film that is in development. More than 126 millions books in total.

A simple comment, heard and accepted, changed Bridwell’s life and the world.

The lesson being:

Keep your ears open. You never know when inspiration might arrive or from whom it may come.

It turns out that Norma Bridwell also played a hand in the creation of Clifford. Bridwell first named his big, red dog Tiny, but Norma told her husband that his idea to call a huge bloodhound Tiny was “stupid.” Instead, they decided the dog should be named Clifford, after an imaginary friend Norma Bridwell had when she was little.

When Norma Bridwell suggested that her husband follow up by writing another story about Clifford and Emily Elizabeth — and maybe even two or three books — the author answered, “Oh, no. This is just a fluke.”

She pressed him to write another, and the rest is history.

The lesson being:

Listen to your spouse in all creative matters.

Also in matters related to the decluttering of the entranceway.